I saw this book on one of my frequent trips to Barnes & Noble, and while I do not usually purchase new hardcover books, this one seemed worth it. The story sounded compelling, heartbreaking and full of hope all at the same time. I have been enjoying reading books about people in World War II recently, but this one was unlike anything else I have read thus far. I have enjoyed reading novels set during the war since it tells the story of ordinary people. Too often, history teaches us only about the big picture, but stories like this one teach us about what everyday people experienced – fear, grief, anguish, hope, and love.
Late on a frozen February evening, a young woman is running through the streets of London. Having fled from her abusive boyfriend and with nowhere to go, Jess stumbles onto a forgotten lane where a small, clearly unlived in old house offers her best chance of shelter for the night. The next morning, a mysterious letter arrives and when she can’t help but open it, she finds herself drawn inexorably into the story of two lovers from another time.
In London 1942, Stella meets Dan, a US airman, quite by accident, but there is no denying the impossible, unstoppable love that draws them together. Dan is a B-17 pilot flying his bomber into Europe from a British airbase; his odds of survival at one in five. The odds are stacked against the pair; the one thing they hold onto is the letters they write to each other. Fate is unkind and they are separated by decades and continents. In the present, Jess becomes determined to find out what happened to them. Her hope—inspired by a love so powerful it spans a lifetime—will lead her to find a startling redemption in her own life.
Letters to the Lost is the best book I read in 2015. It took me a little while to really get into the story but as soon as Stella met Dan in 1943, it took off. By that point the story never slowed down and I was completely swept up in the joys and heartbreaks of both Stella and Jess.
Once Jess reads a dying Dan’s final letter to Stella, pleading her to respond if it ever reaches her, and she finds Stella’s old letters in the abandoned house, her fate becomes entwined with that of the war torn couple. As Jess learns more about the American pilot and lonely English housewife, who met in the middle of World War II, she becomes quite determined to help Dan locate Stella so that he can see her one last time before he dies. As Jess starts to work at finding Stella, she makes the acquaintance of Will Holt, a probate researcher trying to find any heirs to whom the abandoned house would be passed. As Jess and Will start working together to find Stella and learn what tore them apart during the war, they begin to fall in love themselves. While Dan and Stella’s story has a heartbreaking conclusion at the end of the Second World War, Jess and Will’s is just beginning and provides hope that they can and will have a happier ending.
I do not know what else to say really, I always seem to have more to say when I have not enjoyed a book, but this novel quickly went to my top 5. I do not want to spoil the end of the story because I believe that this is a novel worth reading and I have been recommending it to all of my family members for them to enjoy. While the story can cause uncontrollable weeping (or perhaps that was just me) it also leads one to believe that hope can exist in the darkest of circumstances and new beginnings are possible at any age.
Rating: 10 out of 10 stars
Edition: Paperback • $15.99 • 9781250066787 • 384 pages • originally published May 2015, this edition published May 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin • average Goodreads rating 4.15 out of 5 • read in December 2015